These routines are crucial to a cat's sense of well-being and general order in his domain. Photography ©JackF | Getty Images.
These routines are crucial to a cat's sense of well-being and general order in his domain. Photography ©JackF | Getty Images.

Are Routines Crucial to a Cat’s Sense of Well-Being?

We humans can get very stressed when our routines are thrown off, but do cats feel the same way? One cat parent shares his story on adjusting routines to ensure a cat's sense of well-being.

My cat is loud. He’s emphatic. He’s insistent. He meows a lot. “Well,” you might say, “that’s what cats do.” Sure, but my cat, Thomas, does it louder, longer, more … I don’t know, flagrantly, than many cats. Thomas’ vocabulary contains at least 10 variations on meow. He has softer ones (including some adorable little purr-meows), but holy cow, he loves his loud.

Sometimes, I know exactly what he wants. “Give me another dinner!” “Let me go fight that raccoon in the backyard!” Other times I’m stumped. Regardless, the meows continue. If there were a word meaning “full-volume filibuster,” it might become Thomas’ surname.

Sound like aural torture? Well, yes and no. I’ve learned to love Thomas’ meows. He’s a remarkably expressive cat. Also, I’ve learned to shorten his filibusters, as it were. Living together for nearly six years, he and I have come to know and understand one another.

I still can’t access his volume control, but I now better perceive what he needs when he gets loud, so I can help him feel safe so he quiets down.

Puzzling it out

Observing your cat and researching cat behavior can help you figure out what is wrong. Photography ©Erikona | Getty Images.
Observing your cat and researching cat behavior can help you figure out what is wrong. Photography ©Erikona | Getty Images.

Much of this relationship development occurred during what I call “kitty bachelor weekends.” My wife, Daphne, travels for work several times a year, and when I’m the only human in the house, the schedule can change pretty drastically.

First, I’m a true “night person.” Second, I’m a painter and sculptor in addition to a writer and editor. So I love working alone in my studio late into the night. For me, it’s a creative break from routine, a time to process and rejuvenate. For a cat, however, it can signal the end of the world.

At first, that’s how Thomas took it. When he and I were alone overnight, “uneasy truce” was about the best it got. He was often restless and noisy in the late hours, periodically returning to my studio imploring me to … well, I didn’t know what. I could tell he was anxious, though, and he didn’t sleep in our bedroom, which is rare. So I set out to solve this puzzle.

I closely observed Thomas, and I researched cat behavior. I also strengthened the routines Thomas and I have on nights when everyone is home. Over time it became clear: These routines are crucial to a cat’s sense of well-being and general order in his domain.

These routines are pretty fun, too.

Daphne and I usually go to bed around the same time. Once in the bedroom, I have a really energetic play session with Thomas, using his favorite wand toy — which I call Stumpy because he has absolutely shredded it. Eventually, I let him catch Stumpy, whom he drags under the bed, victorious. When he emerges a few seconds later, he gets pets and treats. Soon afterward, all three of us are in bed, Daphne and I reading, Thomas taking a bath.

A new routine

Try adjusting when there is a break in your cat's routine. Photography ©vgajic | Getty Images.
Try adjusting when there is a break in your cat’s routine. Photography ©vgajic | Getty Images.

When Daphne is away, though, I often stay up later, working in the studio. The break in routine seemed to trigger Thomas’ anxiety, so I tried an experiment. Around “normal” bedtime, I called Thomas and initiated the play-pet-treat ritual.

Afterward, I calmly said, “I’m returning to the studio for a while. You’re welcome to join me.” It took some adjustment, but now he often follows me and sleeps on my big red cushy studio chair. It’s not always perfect, but we’re establishing a new routine for just the two of us.

When I finish the studio session, I tell him I’m going to bed, and he usually accompanies me. When he does, I give him a bonus round of treats. If he doesn’t follow me, I don’t insist, but he usually comes in soon.

All this has helped us get more in tune with one another. On the one hand, he’s still loud at times — he’ll always ask for a second dinner, and he’ll never stop wanting to fight that raccoon. But his vociferous insistence no longer brings frustration or confusion.

Now I can better sense what’s getting at him, talk to him patiently (and sometimes humorously), and pretty soon he quiets down. Sometimes he’ll throw in some adorable little purr-meows for subtle emphasis. (Just kidding about the “subtle” part.)

Tell us: How does your cat react when his routine is interrupted?

Thumbnail: Photography ©JackF | Getty Images.

Keith Bowers is a career journalist who has covered pets, the arts, law, politics, business and crime. He is a visual artist in oil painting, sculpture and photography and has been the emcee for CatCon for three years. He lives in Corvallis, Oregon, with his wife, Daphne, and one cat, a brown tabby named Thomas.

Editor’s note: This article appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Catster magazine delivered straight to you

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4 thoughts on “Are Routines Crucial to a Cat’s Sense of Well-Being?”

  1. Our cat will defecate in our bedroom and office room multiple times when we go on vacation for a week in the spring. She also uses her litter box, but makes a statement with the other areas to show her displeasure. When we are on vacation, she is cared for by the neighbor, who provides all her physical needs, but her routine is different and she does not like it! She does not have my warm lap to lay on each night on the couch or in the bed. Nor is she getting daily snuggle time with me as we lay on the bed while I read my daily devotions. Maybe we’ll lay plastic down in each carpeted room before leaving on our next vacation!

  2. Yes my Buttercup does that too…I have to be at work at 4am Tuesday- Saturday,so my routine to get up at 2:30am get ready for work ,talk to Buttercup and Tinkerbell get fresh water,food and clean my fur babies poop so that’s our routine but the problems is I am off on Sunday and Monday and Buttercup still wants me to get up at the same time when I am off,Tinkerbell is laid back and will chill ,once I let Buttercup in the room he settles down ,then I may go back to sleep or not…life of my fur babies

  3. Our Black cat is all about routines…. and he determines what they are… LOL… but also arggghhh… Mornings… get up go to kitchen and eat 1/2 wet food… go to washroom… eat 2nd 1/2 wet food … ask for cuddles… nap… go to wife’s bedroom and meow until all doors are open and everyone is awake… because he insists that when he is awake… all must wake up… and all doors must be opened… then he goes to sleep once everyone else is up… lol

  4. My cat Little Bit also loves her routines. When I come in the door from working all day, she’s waiting for me, meowing loudly. “About time Mom, I need some petting.” I go to my room to change my clothes and clean the litter box and she follows. As soon as I kneel on the floor to clean the litter box, she starts meowing loudly again, “pet me, pet me!” Until I stroke her long enough, she won’t let me clean the litter box or start dinner. If I fail to pet her while doing these chores, she follows me around, like a dog, meowing!

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